They typically get no respect, their spot in the pitching staff is often used as a demotion for ineffective starters or set up men, it’s not the spot many aspiring pitchers dream of being. Yet, their existence is absolutely crucial to the success of any baseball team. The middle relievers bridge the gap from the starter to the guys who slam the door shut at the end of the game. They have plenty of opportunity to blow the game before it even reaches the late innings, but they seldom do, and they take the brunt of the blame when things go bad.
In the AL West, the guys who occupy the not very glamorous part of the pitching staffs may decide how this division ultimately plays out.
For the sake of this list, I’ll exclude guys who are listed in the set up role, and will include those in long relief roles. Thanks again to MLBDepthCharts.com for helping on the bullpen projections.
Over the years a glaring weakness of Angels bullpens has been the lack of effective left handers. Now that they signed Sean Burnett to be a set up guy, Scott Downs can move into more of a middle relief role which will help during the middle innings for sure. Kevin Jepsen throws extremely hard, very much in the same vein as the departed Jordan Walden, and has developed into a solid relief pitcher who can blow hitters away with his fastball. David Carpenter is the young one in the pen, and he’ll likely be used primarily in low pressure situations until he proves his effectiveness. If Jerome Williams is in the game, then either it’s a blowout in favor of their opponents or the starter got injured, the Angels won’t want to see him on the mound.
This is a group that could really fluctuate throughout the season to include Evan Scribner and Travis Blackley. Jerry Blevins though is the top dog of this group, he came through numerous times in big situations (Think double play to avert a walk off in Anaheim, ownage of Josh Hamilton), he’s one of the most trusted arms on the A’s. Jordan Norberto was very effective at times, but his propensity for walking hitters has hindered his progress other times. Pat Neshek is as effective against right handed hitters as he is ineffective against lefties, as long as he sticks to his role he’ll continue to be a valuable part of the bullpen. Chris Resop could be this year’s Evan Scribner, he won’t be the first one called out of the pen, but he’ll provide solid innings without a doubt.
Perhaps the highest ceiling, highest potential bullpen in the division resides in Arlington. Tanner Scheppers throws absolute gas, and as he continues to get comfortable in the Major Leagues his effectiveness will skyrocket. Michael Kirkman and Josh Lindblom are solid relief pitchers, although rather unspectacular (Lindblom if you may recall gave up Yoenis Cespedes‘ walk off home run against the Dodgers last year). Coty Woods is the true unknown of this staff, and if he isn’t effective in Spring Training he may have to be returned to the Colorado Rockies since he’s a Rule 5 draftee.
It’s not that these guys are bad, they’re just overwhelmingly mediocre. The Mariners may be able to creep towards the .500 mark in 2013, and that being considered it seems fitting that their bullpen would consist of this caliber of pitcher.
I don’t mean to pile on the Astros by placing them 5th in every category so far, but that’s the reality of their situation. Their bullpen is full of no names and also rans, they’ll take their lumps without a doubt.
It’s highly doubtful anyone on this list today will ever become household names, but they will absolutely play an integral part in the 2013 season and how it plays out. Next up, I’ll highlight the new faces on each team in the division and how that should impact the race for the AL West title.